Sunday, December 23, 2012

NRA's absurd scapegoating of violent movies, video games doesn't hold up to scrutiny

By Marc McDonald 

For five days after the horrific bloodbath at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the National Rifle Association went eerily silent. They slithered under a rock and nobody heard a peep from them until Friday. The cowards even temporarily took down their Facebook page. 

Finally, the NRA's head ghoul Wayne LaPierre spoke up. And in his idiotic, error-filled statement, LaPierre fell back on the one of the gun lobby's oldest scapegoating tactics. He blamed Hollywood for its violent movies, as well as video game makers. He called them "a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people." 

Like all the NRA's claims, though, this one doesn't hold up to scrutiny. 

As film director Oliver Stone noted, Hollywood movies are viewed all over the world. And violent video games are played worldwide. 

If one takes a look at Japan's culture and society, one begins to realize how idiotic LaPierre's argument is.

After all, a large percentage of the world's most popular (and violent) video games originate in Japan. So does the often hyper-violent content of Japanese manga comic books and anime cartoons. Some of the later are so blood-soaked and violent, they could never be marketed in the U.S.

Japan also has a robust film industry. And as a long-time fan of Japanese cinema, I can safely say that many of the most violent movies ever made are from Japan. A good example is the ultra-violent movie Tokyo Gore Police from 2008. 


Tokyo Gore Police may well be the most violent film ever made. A jaw-dropping, astonishingly blood-soaked and hyper-violent movie, Tokyo Gore Police makes the films of controversial "bad boy" director Quentin Tarantino look tame by comparison. 

In fact, as fans of Asian horror/thriller/slasher films know, many of Tarantino's films are nothing more than watered down pale imitations of the best of Asian "extreme" cinema. Tarantino rips off many of his ideas from the best of Japanese cinema and waters it all down for an American audience that, in most cases, has never been exposed to the real deal. (Films like Tokyo Gore Police, as well as the hyper-violent Japanese masterpiece Battle Royale from 2000 sadly, rarely even get a U.S. theatrical release.) 

Despite its sometimes hyper-violent cinema and video game industry, Japan has astonishingly little real-world violent gun crime. For example, in the year 2006, there were a grand total of two gun murders in all of Japan. 

Two. 

In fact, most years, gun murders in Japan range from around 10 to 20. (This, in a nation of over 126 million people). When the number hit 22 in 2007, it caused a lot of national hand-wringing about the "soaring" gun murder rate. To put that into context, though, during that same year, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally

Of course, Japan does have strong gun regulations. Unlike in the U.S., in Japan, violent and mentally ill people can't just waltz into their local Walmart and buy all the guns they want. Japan even screens potential gun buyers to make sure they're not crazy (gasp! what a radical idea!). 

The bottom line is that LaPierre's claim that the problem is violent movies and not sensible gun laws ignores what's going on in the real world.

(Cross-posted at BeggarsCanBeChoosers.)

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4 Comments:

  • I have to hugely disagree both with the methodology of this post, and also the dismissive character.

    Setting aside the NRA's stance, as I don't think it is useful, I think tragedies like this cause us to want an answer to the "why?". I think rarely is there a simple answer. Mental health of the individual is likely a root cause, but I think the exacerbating factors are multiple. A discussion between gun laws and access is relevant - for example if a health care provider has cited a patient as being mentally ill and has been committed, when doing a background check this should be easily accessible. However, I also think that you cannot divorce the increasing violence of television and video games our culture is producing, especially when combined with less guidance from parents, less community, and more time children and teens spend alone pursuing these activities. We have always had guns, and even had easier access to things such as machine guns and rifles in school lockers back in the 50s, but less gun violence. I think being dismissive of any cause, when we haven't established an answer is unhelpful, divisive, and frankly often arrogant.

    Lastly, I completely disagree about the comparison with Japan. Though I think it is difficult to compare apples and oranges, the two cultures being so different, Japan is becoming more westernized. As it does, if you look at statistics, especially since the 90's, violence is increasing. The incidents, particularly in terms of violent assaults and murders is striking. Wikipedia is a snapshot, but scientific studies merit further review for context: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_major_crimes_in_Japan

    I think as unbiased as possible an assessment of the contributors to the current situation is needed, and disdainful commentary that stereotypes either side will get us nowhere but further polarized, and even further from a solution.

    - Senah

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:25 PM  

  • I agree with everything except about Tarantino "ripping off" Asian films. Homage is not the same as ripping off, nor has he denied being a fan of cinema outside America.

    In fact, Pulp Fiction was inspired by a French film.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:28 AM  

  • re:
    >>I think rarely is there a simple
    >>answer.

    I have to disagree. There IS a simple answer: make it to where it's not so fucking easy for violent, mentally ill nutcases like Adam Lanza, Mark David Chapman, Seung-Hui Cho, and others to buy extremely deadly weapons that the Founding Fathers never could have fathomed.

    re:
    >>>Lastly, I completely disagree
    >>>about the comparison with Japan.

    Of course you do. Gun lovers always shy away from the fact that, out here in the real world, sensible gun regulations have been proven time and time again to work in reducing violence.

    By mentioning the Wikipedia article, you unwittingly showed just how out of touch with reality the NRA types are.

    At first glance, the Wikipedia article you cite does seem to indicate that there have been plenty of violent crimes in Japan.

    However, context is everything. First of all, this list rounds up all major violent crime incidents in Japan going all the way back to the year 1893. Secondly, I just did a quick count of the total number of dead in this roundup. It comes to less than 450. (To put that into context, there have been more than 500 people murdered in Chicago alone just in the year 2012).

    One other thing that strikes me about this Wikipedia roundup is how many of these Japan crime incidents don't involve guns. (So much for the NRA's idiotic stance that gun laws don't reduce violent crime).

    By Blogger Marc McDonald, at 12:28 AM  

  • re:
    >>Asian films. Homage is not the same as ripping off

    Yes, well, there is a fine line between the two, I believe.
    John Lennon, for example, often admitted that The Beatles stole from the likes of Buddy Holly, Elvis, and the Everly Brothers (and he didn't hesitate to use words like "steal").

    I'd feel more comfortable using the word "homage" if Tarantino's works were an improvement on the originals. But everything he has done is vastly inferior to the likes of Sergio Leone and the other, more obscure directors that he rips off.

    The main thing that annoys me about Tarantino is that he is hailed as a "risk taking" and "controversial" director. In fact, he isn't daring at all. He's not taking any risks. He's simply taking ideas from obscure Italian, French and Asian directors and watering it down to be sold as mainstream Hollywood product.

    Someone like Michael Moore (who received many death threats for his films) is a true "controversial, risk-taking" director. Tarantino isn't. In my opinion, he's just an over-rated hack.

    By Blogger Marc McDonald, at 12:31 AM  

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